For years, mobile phone companies have done their damnedest to discourage Skype leaping across the vacuum between PCs and cellular networks. The reason's obvious: why pay 20 cents per minute for a local call when you can pay one cent a minute to call Zimbabwe?
If handsets were entirely separate from contracts, it would doubtlessly be a non- issue: some handset manufacturer would include the software in order to have a killer feature, other manufacturers would scramble to match, and pretty soon it'd be ubiquitous. But unfortunately, carriers and handset manufacturers are usually in cahoots... and in America, at least, the carriers call the shots. No Skype.
But Nokia seems to have turned around on it. Yesterday at the Mobile World Congress, Skype and Nokia announced a partnership to bring Skype to Nokia's phones, with the upcoming Nokia N97 being the first to incorporate Skype into the system and allow for both outgoing and incoming calls.
Seriously: kudos. Nokia has traditionally not played the United States' carrier game, ignoring their feature requests (or hobblings) in favor of a European model which largely looks at phones and service as separate deals. That may be a poor business decision on Nokia's part, and adding a carrier-challenging app like Skype built-in to the N97 isn't going to help them with US penetration, but it's still a great step towards hegemony-breaking from a consumerist perspective.
I look forward to the day my mobile is also my Skype phone.
Skype and Nokia Partner to Integrate Skype into Nokia Devices [Business Wire]